10 Austl. & N.Z. Mar. L.J. 1 (1994)

handle is hein.journals/ausnewma10 and id is 1 raw text is: Limitation of Maritime Claims
Hon Mr Justice Peter Heerey
Federal Court of Australia
When the common law confers a right to recover compensation for loss or
damage from a wrongdoer, that right is usually unlimited, in the sense that
the common law does not impose any monetary limit or ceiling.
From time to time classes of defendants who claim to have fared
particularly badly in the courts seek legislative protection in the form of a
cap or monetary limit. Recent examples are auditors who have suffered
huge verdicts for professional negligence and media defendants who have
been hit to leg by juries for libels like the one involving the unseemly
dressing room exposure of a Rugby League footballer (if the mixed sporting
metaphor may be pardoned). Such appeals to governmental protection
usually fall on stony ground. The natural response is that some verdicts
may be large; but if they are too large, they will be set aside on appeal (as
in fact has now occurred with the dressing room defamation) and, if they
are not, then why should the defendant not pay since the verdict reflects
the loss or damage the plaintiff suffered from what was, ex hypothesi,
unlawful conduct of the defendant.
The limitation of liability of shipowners is a long established exception.
It goes back to an English Act of 1734, the short title of which was 'An Act
to settle how far Owners of Ships shall be answerable for the acts of the
Masters or Mariners'.1 The legislation was introduced as a result of a
petition from shiDowners in 1733 which complained of:
The F S Dethridge Memorial Address presented to the Conference of the Maritime Law
Association of Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne on 8 November 1993. I am grateful
for the assistance of Mr Justice Carruthers of the Supreme Court of New South Wales and Dr
Damien Cremean of the Victorian Bar who were kind enough to read a draft of this paper
and make helpful suggestions, and also research by my Associate Mr David Brennan.

I   7GeoI,c.15.

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